Fake News and Faith-Based “Gavin Stone”—Review

gavinstoneThe Resurrection of Gavin Stone was released this past weekend with a great deal of grassroots fanfare. I was bombarded by people telling me that the film was “HILARIOUS” and that I needed to support it because the “Christian film genre needs help.” I was skeptical about the film being that funny, but I trusted my sources and watched it.

When the theater lights came up after the end credits, I realized that all the social media entries about the “HILARIOUS” film were all fake news. My friends were duped, or they’ve learned how to lie for the sake of a good cause. Nah, they were duped.

It seems that the more a person watches campy films to support a cause, the more the bar of their artistic scale lowers. They loose track of what is great cinema and what should’ve been relegated to a TV Movie of the Week (MOW) on a small cable network.

But I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. I’ll suppose they hadn’t watched La La Land or Hidden Figures yet, which would have shifted their skewed perspective back to a healthy norm. And, they probably hadn’t recently watched videos of The Blind Side, Gravity or Les Misérables.

Then again, maybe they’re stuck on squishy Hallmark movies, where in the first three minutes of the film you know exactly where the plot is headed—comfortably taking away any unwanted surprises. The Resurrection of Gavin Stone did that very thing, lifting its tired plots directly from Hallmark Christmas and Winterfest movies.

I don’t slight director Dallas Jenkins for using a Hallmark format for a campy story in the least, but I do find it interesting that he was quoted as saying his desire was that the movie “drives people to church on Sunday morning,” when the film was clearly made for the proverbial choir.

The film was loaded with Christian jargon that wasn’t understood by the general public, making it impossible to create any desire in a non-believer to attend church. The “inside jokes” also made it difficult for the audience to feel compelled to join the click, rather than being repulsed by it. That’s not to say Jenkins didn’t have the right to make a film for the choir, but to say he hopes it reaches unbelievers sounds like the perfect set up for fake news.

When a film’s language is campy Christian, gritty secular crowds won’t get it. Most won’t even buy the ticket. In fact, the moment Christians hear that the film is yet another faith-based campy story that belongs on a small cable network, box office sales will dry up. But, it won’t really matter, as Jenkins got his two weeks in theaters to increase video sales.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the film was a flop at the box office. Opening weekend saw less than $2,500 per screen average; a number that once a normal film drops to is clearly on its way out.

But the film isn’t all bad. The good news is that the choir will laugh hardily when watching this comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously. In fact, the choir might finally be able to poke fun at themselves after watching this film that takes the starch out of the up-tight ministry leader. Jenkins did a great job at getting the proverbial choir to look at themselves from an outsider’s viewpoint.

There were even several great moments of acting aside from the purposeful cheeky scenes filled with self-deprecating choir humor and campy fun. Had the title been better suited toward comedy and the film shot as a television special, I’m convinced it would’ve had much higher viewership.

The timing of the film might have added to the film’s death, since many in the choir are still trying to see award winning films like La La Land and Hidden Figures – Both are must sees in my book.

So let me be clear … stating that the film is “HILARIOUS” is fake news. Saying that the film will “delight members of the choir and their friends” is truth. Saying that the film is “original” is fake news. Saying that the film is heartwarming is truth. Are you getting the picture?

My recommendation, go see La La Land and Hidden Figures first.

Copyright 2017 by CJ Powers

Star Trek vs. Faith-Based Canon

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Star Trek is one of the most revered science fiction franchises that hold tightly to its canon. The 13 motion pictures and 6 television series all follow the production bibles that have painstakingly been kept corruption free for 50 years. Even the independent fan films have focused on excruciating details to honor the canon.

A recent copyright infringement suit sped its first part of judgment thanks to the accuracy of the canon and the many production companies that continued adhering to the rules of the franchise world without exception. Many Star Trek bible elements have been released and highly supported by the fans, forcing production companies to scrutinize every aspect of their production in order to stay true to its canon.

But in the faith-based films that include stories based on the Bible, a canon of 66 books, few production companies adhere to it. The Young Messiah was released last March and was touted as one of the best faith-based films of 2016, but it broke canon with little repercussions.

The film is a story about Jesus at age seven and his family’s departure from Egypt to return back to Nazareth. This fresh childhood perspective gave audiences an explorative glimpse into how their future Savior grew into his religious identity.

Breaking canon in the name of “creative license” is something that Star Trek storytellers would never do. But, the makers of The Young Messiah had no problems stepping away from canon. According to the book of John, one of the 66 books within the Christian canon, Jesus performed his first “sign” or miracle at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. But, in the film, which takes place years earlier, he brought a dead bird back to life, healed his sick uncle and restored sight to a Rabbi.

While the director intended these signs to reveal the humanity of Jesus, which it did, it broke canon and distorted the truth for its viewers. This creates conflict between those defending faith-based films and those who teach from the canon in real life. And it doesn’t end there.

Back in the 1960’s a group of historical revisionists decided to adjust the thinking of the church through the media. They created a story that Jesus’ hands weren’t actually pierced when he was put on the cross because the Greek word for hand also included the wrist. They also stated that Jesus’ hands would’ve torn open due to his weight, and therefore, he was actually pierced in his wrists when they crucified him.

This notion broke canon, but evangelists liked the “new revelation” and spread the word throughout the world. Today, most pastors who weren’t around for the origin of this story teach that Jesus was pierced in his forearms, albeit close to the wrist. They shifted to the forearm because the wrist is just a series of bones that couldn’t be pierced, and the canon said not a bone in his body was broken, which piercing his wrist would have done. These further adjustments took congregations even farther away from the purity of the canon.

By the way, a couple years ago I interviewed a nurse who worked for an orthopedic hand surgeon. She said that Jesus could easily have been pierced in his hands because of the vast network of ligaments that crisscross like a web inside of the hand, which is also strong enough to hold the body’s weight without tearing.

This Easter a new faith-based film that has broken canon will be released by the title of The Shack. The most obvious departure from canon is that God the Father shows up as God the Mother. Canon states that God wanted to be called the Heavenly Father, but historical revisionists are pushing for God being able to show himself as anything he wants, which meets the canon of the Hindus and Universalists, not the Christians.

What I don’t understand is how Christians, whose lives depend on its writings, are so willing to break canon in the name of creative license, but Star Trek will do everything in its power to maintain their sacred canon. Even J. J. Abrams during the filming of Star Trek 2009 talked about the difficulty in maintaining canon, but how it was well rewarded by the audience’s appreciation.

So, why do faith-based films not follow canon? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter, especially since Star Trek is make believe (suggesting that canon doesn’t matter) and Christianity is reality (suggesting canon is critical).

Copyright © 2017 by CJ Powers

Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017

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Last year was filled with personal loss, crazy politics and the courting of China’s Wanda in Hollywood. It was a year that most people wanted to exit before they incurred too many losses. The only thing everyone seemed to agree on was that 2017 had to be better.

For 2017 to be better for me, at least from the perspective of the world of entertainment, I’d like to see some changes in the motion picture industry. I’ve decided to consolidate my thoughts by genre.

ROM-COMS
I’m tired of romantic comedies being too dramatic and short on comedy. This might be due to the slow pace all Rom-Coms have fallen into, which likely destroyed comedic timing. This year I’d like to see a fast paced Rom-Com that takes 10 minutes for the audience to figure out how the show ends instead of the standard three minutes.

HORROR
I’ve had enough with the screaming beauties. How about the first horrifying attack being against a buff man instead of a high-pitched screamer. I mean does every horror film have to start with a blond scream? Not in 2017.

FAITH-BASED
I beg you to stop preaching in an emotion-based demonstrative medium (show don’t tell). Learn how to show the human condition so your redemptive moment at the end makes God look majestic instead of trite. Take time to rewrite your scripts two dozen more times before shooting your ultra-low budget film and make sure at least one scene uses subtext instead of Evangelical jargon.

ACTION
Please consider shortening your action sequences enough to add a subplot into your movie that helps us to actually care about the protagonist. I’m tired of comic book stereotypes in an age when diversity makes us stronger.

ADVENTURE
Yes, thinning out your plotlines has increased your box office success, but when you thin it out too much no one wants to watch the story a second time—That’s why box office dollars started to shrink. Give us something to chew on that transcends the action plotline.

MUSICALS
Making a few more every year would put lots of smiles on the faces in the reclining theatre seats. Maybe its time for a new franchise of musicals like the old Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney stories.

BUDDY COP
These films are made all too far away from the previous one. Everyone likes camaraderie intermixed with thrills and spills. Use your creativity and come up with a few scenes we haven’t seen before and we’ll let you toss in a few scenes that play like an old romantic rerun of happy days gone by.

DRAMA
This genre has turned dark and can’t seem to come back into the light without turning cheeky in the process. I challenge you to write a smart drama that carries a happy tone with sporadic nightmares that are quickly sorted by the protagonist. We want the star to step up with an amazing demonstration of unconditional love coated in self-deprecating humor and a touch of chivalry. And while you’re at it, stick it in a courtroom that is rendered with respect, instead of the bitter views of those abused by attorneys.

I suppose that’s enough dreaming to kick off this year. How about you? I’d love to see your comments on what changes you’d like to see this on the silver screen.

Copyright © 2017 by CJ Powers